The “Puppies in Prison” scheme, which has been running since 2010, allows low-security inmates train puppies to give freedom and independence to people with disabilities who need assistance with daily activities.
The women spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with the dogs and are expected to teach them up to 50 different commands. By the end of their training the dogs can open and close doors, retrieve dropped items, undo zips and even sort laundry. Talk about bone-a-fide training!
The level three qualification, which is provided through Mahurangi Technical Institute's distance learning programme, recognises their work as trainers for the Mobility Assistance Dogs Trust. This work was previously only done on a voluntary basis. The women also complete assessments on canine genetics, anatomy, nutrition and behaviour as part of the training.
What can prisoners do with their qualifications?
According to programme facilitator Tracey Davis, the certificate prepares students for a career at a pet store, at a boarding kennel, or as a groomer, breeder or pet-sitter. They can also go on to complete higher qualifications in animal management and care.
Puppies in Prison coordinator Natalie Ramm says it is fantastic to see the women recognised with a formal qualification for their months of work.
The prisoners form powerful bonds with the dogs over; this can help the women formulate appropriate emotional relationships and learn how to commit to something.
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